Things to see in St Andrews
If you thought St Andrews was just about golf, think again! Yes, there are 11 great courses in the area, but if you don’t play golf then why not explore the historic buildings, the spectacular beaches, the fascinating museums, and the vibrant arts and cultural scene.
For a complete list of all the upcoming events in St. Andrews over the coming months, check out the “What’s On” guide at Visit St. Andrews.
St Andrews Castle has been by turns a fortress, palace and prison. It is largely ruined, battered from centuries of wars, sieges and high tides, but remains a fascinating visit on any trip to St Andrews. Children will love the visitor centre, with its beautifully illustrated history of those who lived – and died – in the castle. St Andrews Castle’s infamous “bottle dungeon” and the underground mine and countermine are well-preserved evidence of the castle’s medieval past, but they may not be suitable for the faint-hearted!
The sight of a ruined 16th century building lying right beside bustling South Street is slightly surreal. These are the remains of Blackfriars Chapel, part of a monastery operated by Dominican friars. The Chapel was one of the first buildings to be ruined during the Scottish Reformation, and just a tiny section now remains. It can be viewed at all times and is particularly photogenic when lit up at night.
Thought to be the original location of the relics of St Andrew, the Chapel of St Mary on the Rock (late 12th/early 13th Century) sits on the site of even older religious buildings. Though ruined soon after the Scottish Reformation, the Chapel’s foundations can still be seen just outside the Cathedral walls and can be visited at all times. There are also tremendous views out to sea to be enjoyed from this elevated position.
The West Port is one of the very few examples of a medieval city gate remaining in Scotland. Built in 1589 and renovated in 1843, it stands at the bottom of St Andrews’ South Street provides an imposing welcome to the town centre – just the effect its builders wished it to have, over 400 years ago.
No golf lover – and even those who think they might not be very interested in golf – should miss visiting the award-winning British Golf Museum, situated just a long putt away from the 18th Green of the Old Course in St Andrews. Featuring a detailed history of the development of the game and its equipment, a footage archive, and substantial quantities of golfing memorabilia, this is a place for enthusiasts and novices alike. Children will most enjoy the interactive displays and the chance to try putting with different clubs and balls from down the ages.
St Andrews Museum is housed within the striking Kinburn Castle – originally a Victorian mansion house – which is located at the western edge of the town centre. A permanent “St Andrews A-Z” display relates the history of the town, whilst the Kinburn Gallery upstairs features changing temporary exhibitions, generally related to the visual arts and crafts. There is a programme of events and activities throughout the year, and the ‘Cafe in the Park’ sells home-made food. The adjacent public park has tennis courts, a bowling green and some interesting botanical specimens.
Just two miles from the centre of St Andrews lies Craigtoun Country Park; a beautiful haven with mature trees, shrub and grass areas, as well as a modern children’s play area. It’s a wonderful spot for a quiet picnic and is free to enter. The famous miniature railway will be running around the lake, and local volunteers will be providing other activities, including a cafeteria.
The St Andrews Aquarium is appropriately located beside the sea, overlooking the West Sands. Seals, reef sharks, piranhas, seahorses, lionfish and many other species will vie for your attention, and children will be particularly interested in the twice-daily seal feeding and “rockpool rambles”. The Aquarium has also diversified into land-based species, with reptiles, spiders and meerkats (including “Wills”, “Kate” and family!) and there is a cafe on site.
St Andrews Botanic Gardens has some 8,000 species of plants, trees and herbs are on display, and there are few more tranquil places in which to spend a couple of hours, at any time of year. On the occasional days when the weather is not good, the heated glasshouses provide a welcome haven.
An absolute “must-see” for all visitors, the East Neuk is the easternmost part of Fife, bounded by the North Sea and the Firth of Forth (“Neuk” is a Scots word meaning “corner”). Though it contains some rich agricultural land and superb golf courses, the East Neuk is renowned mainly for its picturesque fishing villages.
Pretty whitewashed and red-roofed cottages share similarities with Dutch and Flemish buildings – a legacy of centuries of trading across the sea. Fishing boats land their catches in the old harbours, their bounty highly prized by the area’s many high-quality restaurants. The studios and galleries of artists and craftspeople abound; creative minds have long been drawn here by the unique quality of the light and atmosphere.
The most popular villages to visit are Anstruther, Cellardyke, Crail, Earlsferry and Elie, Pittenweem and St Monans. Don’t forget your camera!